Eotaxin and IL-4 levels are increased in induced sputum and correlate with sputum eosinophils in patients with nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis

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Nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis (NAEB) is characterized by chronic cough and airway eosinophilic inflammation. Airway and systemic inflammation cytokine profile have not been comprehensively described in patients with NAEB.

The aim of the study was to identify the cytokine profile in sputum and serum of NAEB patients. Furthermore, the relationship between cytokines and clinical features would be evaluated.

Induced sputum and serum were collected from untreated NAEB patients and healthy subjects. The cytokine profile in sputum and serum was analyzed by a bead-based multiplex cytokine assay including 21 cytokines.

The levels of EGF, eotaxin, GM-CSF, GRO, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-17A, IP-10, MIP-1α, and TNF-α in sputum were significantly higher in NAEB patients than that in healthy subjects (all P < 0.05). Values of area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) of these cytokines were all above 0.750. The concentrations of eotaxin and IL-4 were positively correlated with sputum eosinophil percentage (r = 0.726, P = 0.002; r = 0.511, P = 0.043; respectively). No significant correlations between other cytokines (EGF, GM-CSF, GRO, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-17A, IP-10, MIP-1α, and TNF-α) in sputum and sputum eosinophil percentage were found. The level of IL-4 in serum was slightly higher in NAEB patients than in healthy subjects. However, there was no correlation between serum IL-4 levels and sputum eosinophil percentage.

We identified the cytokine profile in sputum and serum from NAEB patients. Sputum eotaxin and IL-4 could have the potential to become the biomarkers for NAEB and might be useful to assist in the diagnosis of NAEB.

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